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Turkey hunt set to begin

Updated: April 18, 2013 10:18PM



Steve Backs is “cautiously optimistic’’ about spring turkey hunting in Indiana. The wild turkey project leader projects a harvest of 12,000 birds, give or take a thousand.

Spring turkey hunting opens Wednesday. At public sites like LaSalle and Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Areas, the standby draw is at 4:30 a.m. Indiana’s youth turkey hunt is this weekend. Public sites have no standby for the youth hunt.

“But if we drop some this year I will not be surprised,’’ Backs emailed. “We have below normal summer brood production since 2005 and the last several years we have seen some impacts on the age structure of our spring harvests. Generally, we see about 65 percent adults and 35 percent jakes (young males); but in 2011 we were down to 19 percent jakes; and in 2012 we were down to 14 percent jakes statewide.’’

The good news is northern Indiana had better production in recent years than southern areas. Production was better last year, with the drought having no apparent impact.

The spring breeding season roadside gobbling counts (love the idea) are currently being conducted, so no figures are available.

Backs suspects the percentages of jakes could have an interesting impact on hunters.

“From a hunting standpoint, 2-year-old gobblers are the most vocal gobblers, older birds 3 to 3-plus tend to display/strut more; and jakes — it’s just hard to tell what a jake might do — they don’t usually gobble and they often show up unannounced,’’ Backs emailed. “Given the trends in our production the last few years, the proportion of adult birds will likely be down, especially 2-year-olds, so gobbling activity could be diminished, and we’ll likely see more jakes in the harvest.’’

Staff at both LaSalle and Willow Slough reported hearing plenty of gobbling. LaSalle property manager Ken Bisacchi said participants in the jakes event last Saturday even spooked roosting turkeys at a parking lot.

Backs gave one of my favorite quotes on wildlife.

“Unfortunately, jakes are unpredictable in their behavior because they just are not really sure of their gender/purpose yet and they are usually submissive to more dominant adult gobblers,’’ he emailed. “That being said, group numbers will trump single older bird dominance so a hunter could be working a single gobbler only to have a small band of jakes show up unannounced to blow the whole deal. It can be frustrating, but that is turkey hunting!’’

Lakers: Indiana released nearly 100,000 yearling lake trout at Michigan City on April 5 and Monday. The lakers came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Michigan DNR.

“The Michigan DNR fish came to us as a result of a shortage of Chinook salmon from our Mixsawbah hatchery and the cooperative management of the lake’s stocking numbers has allowed this to occur,’’ Lake Michigan fisheries biologist Brian Breidert emailed. “Careful management and communication within the Lake Michigan Committee has really shown how we all work together for the common goal of a successful fishery.’’

Clubbing: Terry Paris and crew of “Team Minnow III’’ and Capt. Ryan Koepke of “Ito Flies’’ will speak at the Salmon Unlimited of Indiana meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday at East Chicago Marina.

Ducks Unlimited: The Porter County banquet is April 27 at Old Towne Banquet Center in Valparaiso. Contact Mike Opat at (219) 898-8464; Lloyd Trumbo, (219) 771-7885; or Mark Matchett, (219) 286-2665.

Fishing: Beside crappie at lakes and ponds, the best thing is bluegill at Willow Slough, where the bass have been strong too. Otherwise, things are tough. Gales are forecast for Lake Michigan today. Rivers are high, the Kankakee is forecast for a significant flood.



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